Former Gov. Warner Addresses the Democratic National Convention in Denver

CQ Transcripts
Tuesday, August 26, 2008; 10:20 PM

SPEAKER: FORMER GOV. MARK WARNER, (D-VA.): Thank you. Are you ready?


Hello, Virginia.


My fellow Democrats -- my fellow Democrats -- my fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, the most important contest of our generation has begun, not the campaign for the presidency, not the campaign for Congress, but the race for the future.

And I believe from the bottom of my heart, with the right vision and the right leadership, and the energy and creativity of the American people, there is no nation that we can't out-hustle and out- compete. And no American need be left out or left behind.


Yes, the race for the future is on, and it won't be won if only some Americans are in the running. And it won't be won with yesterday's ideas and yesterday's divisions. And it won't be won with a president who's stuck in the past.


We need a president who understands the world today, the future we seek, and the change we need. We need Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.


Now, I have -- I have a unique perspective on this race for the future. Like many of you, I'm the first in my family to graduate from college. It was made possible by supportive parents, great public schools, and, since my folks didn't have the resources, thank goodness for the student loan program.


After I graduated law school, you know, it didn't take me long to realize that America really wouldn't miss me as a lawyer, so I started a business. My first company failed in six weeks. My next one was much more successful; it failed in six months.

And then a buddy of mine told me about this brand-new idea, this thing called car telephones, cell phones. I always remember friends of mine telling me, "Warner, you're crazy. Go get a real job. Nobody's ever going to want a phone in their car."


But I saw a different future. And with luck and a lot of hard work, I got in on the ground floor of the cell phone industry.

There's only one country in the world where I could have received that education, where I could have been given not just one chance, or two, but three, and where I could have succeeded. And that's this country, the United States of America.


At our best, at our best, it's not your lineage or last name that matters. It's not where you come from that counts; it's where you want to go.

In America, everyone should get a fair shot. Barack Obama understands this, because he's lived it. And Barack Obama is running to restore that fair shot for every American.


But when we look around, we see that, for far too many Americans, that fair shot is becoming more of a long shot. How many kids have the grades to go to college, but not the money? How many families always thought their home would be their safest investment? How many of our soldiers come back from their second or third tour of duty wondering if the education and health care benefits they were promised would actually be there?

Two wars, a warming -- a warming planet, an energy policy that basically says, "Let's go borrow money from China so we can buy oil from countries that don't like us," how many people look at these things and wonder, what's the future hold for them, their children, their family, their country? How many?

In George Bush and John McCain's America, far too many.


Let's be fair. Some of these changes were inevitable. But all of them are more severe, more immediate, and more threatening because of the misguided policies and outdated thinking of this administration.


You know, folks always ask me, "What's my biggest criticism of President Bush?" Now, I'm sure you've got your own, but here's mine.

It's not just the policy differences. It's the fact that this president never tapped into our greatest resource: the character and resolve of the American people.


He never really asked us to step up. Think about it. If after September 11th there had been a call from the president to get ourselves off foreign oil, so we would no longer be funding the very terrorists who'd just attacked us, every American would have said, "How can I do my part?"


This administration -- this administration failed to believe in what we can achieve as a nation when all of us work together. John McCain promises more of the same, a plan that would explode the deficit and leave that to our kids, no real strategy to invest in our crumbling infrastructure, and he would continue spending $10 billion a month in Iraq.

I don't know about you, but that's just not right. That's four more years that we just can't afford.


Barack Obama -- Barack Obama -- Barack Obama has a different vision and a different plan. Right now, at this critical moment in our history, we have one shot to get it right. And the status quo just won't cut it.

Now, let me tell you, if you think you've seen dramatic changes in the world and technology in the last 10 years, you ain't seen nothing yet. The race is on. And if you watched the Olympics, then you know China's going for the gold.

You know, America has never been afraid of the future, and we shouldn't start now.


If we choose the right path, if we choose the right path, every one of these challenges is also an opportunity.

Look at energy. If we actually got ourselves off foreign oil, we can start to make our country safer, we'll start to solve global warming, and with the right policies, within 24 months, we'll be building 100-mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrid vehicles right here, with American technology and American workers.


Look at health care.

WARNER: If we bring down costs and actually cover everyone, not only will America be healthier; we'll be more competitive in the global economy.

Just think about this. In four months, in just four months, we will have an administration that actually believes in science.


And we can again lead the world in live-saving and life-changing cures.

Think about education. If we recruit a new army of teachers and actually give our schools the resources to meet our highest standards, not only will every child in America be given that fair shot, but the American economy will be given a shot in the arm. And whether they want to be an engineer or an electrician, every kid will be trained for the jobs of the 21st century.


Or look at America's standing in the world. If we rebuild our military and rebuild our alliances, we can rally the world to defeat terrorism and restore America's leadership.

Now, which candidate -- which candidate understands these opportunities? And which candidate -- which candidate knows that we don't have another four years to waste? Barack Obama.

But Barack Obama also knows this, as well. We need leaders who see our common ground as sacred ground. We need leaders who will appeal to us not as Republicans or Democrats, but first and foremost as Americans.


You know, I spent 20 years in business. And if you ran a company whose only strategy was to tear down the competition, it wouldn't last very long. So why is this wisdom so hard to find in Washington?

I know we're at the Democratic convention, but if an idea works, it really doesn't matter whether it's got a "D" or an "R" next to it, because this election...


... this election is not about liberal versus conservative. It's not about left versus right. It's about the future versus the past.


In this election, at this moment, at this moment in our history, we know what the problems are. We know at this critical juncture we only have one shot to get it right. And we know that these new times demand new thinking.

We believe in success. We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to get ahead. And with that success comes a responsibility to make sure that others can follow.

I think we're blessed to be Americans. But with that blessing -- with that blessing comes an obligation to our neighbors and to our common good.

So you give every child the tools they need to succeed. That means quality schools, access to health care, safe neighborhoods, not just because it's the right thing to do -- of course it is -- but because, if those kids do better, we all do better.

And it doesn't really matter. You can be soft-hearted or hard- headed. Both are going to lead you to the same place: We're all in this together.

That's what this party believes. That's what this nation believes. That's what Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe.


And we can do it. We can do it. Sure, we can.

When I became governor, when I became governor, this is what Virginia faced: a massive budget shortfall; an economy that wasn't moving; gridlock in the capital. Now, does that sound familiar?

So what did we do? Working together, a Democratic governor with a 2-to-1 Republican legislature, and a whole lot of good folks who didn't see themselves as Democrats or Republicans, but as Virginians, we closed the budget gap, and Virginia was named the best-managed state in the nation.


We made record investments -- we made record investments in education and job training. We got 98 percent of our -- all of our eligible kids enrolled in our children's health care program.

We delivered broadband to the most remote areas of our state, because, in this global economy, if you can send a job to Bangalore, India, you sure as heck can send one to Danville, Virginia, and Flint, Michigan, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Peoria, Illinois.


Because in the global economy, you shouldn't have to leave your hometown to find a world-class job.

Let me tell you -- let me tell you about a place called Lebanon -- Lebanon, Virginia. Lebanon is in the coalfields of southwest Virginia. And you know what? That whole town, the population of the whole town could fit right here on the convention floor.

Lebanon is like a lot of small towns in America. It's seen the industries that sustained it downsized, outsourced, or shut down.

Now, some folks look at towns like Lebanon and say, "Tough luck. In the global economy, you've lost." But we believed that we couldn't and shouldn't give up on our small towns and expect the rest of our state to prosper.

And that's what brought me, towards the end of my term, to the high school gym in Lebanon to announce that we were going to bring over 300 high-tech jobs, jobs that paid twice the county average.

One student told a reporter from the Washington Post that before this he always thought that he'd have to move away to raise his family and find a good job.

Now, I just heard from this young man, Michael Kisor. Today he's a junior at Virginia Tech. His older brother -- his older brother just moved back home to Lebanon because there was an information technology job open for him that was just too good to pass up.

That's a story worth re-writing all across America.


With the right leadership, we can once again achieve a standard of living that is improved and not diminished in each generation. We can once again make America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery.

Ladies and gentlemen, we know how to do it. The American people are ready. And Barack Obama and Joe Biden will get it done.


You know, as governor of Virginia, as governor of Virginia, it was humbling to occupy a position that was once held by Thomas Jefferson, almost as daunting as delivering the keynote address four years after Barack Obama...


... or speaking before Hillary Clinton.

Towards the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson, the founder of our party, wrote one of his frequent letters to his old rival, John Adams. He complained about the aches of getting old, but what was on his mind was, what would life be like for the next generation of Americans?

As Jefferson was ready to go to sleep, he closed his letter by writing, "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."

Jefferson got it right at the dawn of the 19th century, and it's our challenge to get it right at the dawn of the 21st.


This race is all about the future. And that's why we must elect Barack Obama as our next president...


... because the race for the future -- the race for the future will be won when old partisanship gives way to new ideas, when we put solutions over stalemate, and when hope replaces fear.

Tonight, looking out at all of you, and with a deep faith in the character and resolve of the American people, I am more confident than ever that we will win that race and make that future ours.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company